Well, that was painful. Watching the Cowboys vs. Packers game was like eating ice cream while plunking out your eyebrows. Any time you started feeling good about something, it would be followed by this excruciating pain that would quickly remind you to stop trying to be happy. There were several moments where I went into mourning, mediated, and came to grips with ill-fated reality that awaited. But then, the Dallas Cowboys would continue to fight and it didn’t take long until hope started creeping in again. It was very cruel, but that’s the price you pay when your team never stops fighting.
It’s easy to be optimistic about what the Cowboys have built. As Jason Garrett has said plenty of times, “you want to create a team that you are proud to be a part of.” Well, the Cowboys have certainly done that. Any fan of the Cowboys should feel a great sense of pride as this team will be fun to root for over the next several years. This team wins the right way, so it is important to also lose the right way. Props to the Green Bay Packers on an amazing game. Aaron Rodgers was spectacular. If you have any doubt about that, just turn on a television as it will be all over the sports media this week.
And while better days lie ahead, it was still gut-wrenching as there were so squandered opportunities that could have helped the Cowboys pull out the victory. And that’s why it hurts so much. While recovery is in our future as we learn how to put on our forward faces, it’s time to revisit those “could’ve been” moments that had us throwing our hands up in disgust.
Here are five plays that I wish would have turned out just a little bit differently.
The Not-So-Nice Brice
The Cowboys struggled with their substitutions in this game. Aaron Rodgers caught the defense offsides on the Packers very first possession of the game. It gave them a free first down. That’s sorta his thing. He likes doing that. But the more costly gaffe came when Brice Butler couldn’t make up his mind whether he was in the game or not. He came in the huddle, but didn’t participate in the play, which as most of us learned today is a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. What a mean thing for Butler to do.
And it came at a bad time too because Dak Prescott had just hit Terrance Williams for a 22-yard gain that would have given them a first down at the 15-yard line. It turned out to be a 33-yard penalty. Instead of points, the Cowboys were forced to punt three plays later.
Did They Have To Spike It?
Hindsight is 20/20 and this one will be debated with good points being made on both sides. The Cowboys had the right idea. With 47 seconds left in the game, they were still thinking touchdown and conserving time was important. They had just gone 35 yards on two plays, so asking them to get 10 yards on two plays isn’t unreasonable. The Cowboys were trying to win the game so seconds were precious. If they ran a quick play in haste, they run the risk of a turnover. If they tried to get off a set play, it would have consumed too much time and they’d be essentially conceding for the game-tying field goal. Jason Garrett explains his decision.
The Cowboys had the right idea, they just didn’t make the play on third down. The ball was batted down and Dan Bailey came in and tied it. And as it turned out, the Packers had enough time to move the ball down far enough for Crosby.
I Hate To Burst Your Bubble Screen
When the Packers scored on their opening drive of the second half, it deflated the momentum that the Cowboys were building after a strong first half finish. But the Cowboys offense came right back. They were putting together a nice drive, when Micah Hyde spoiled everything by jumping in front of a Prescott pass attempt to Cole Beasley. The Cowboys have ran this bubble screen many times and with a lot of success. Credit Hyde for sniffing it out and making a huge play. The Cowboys were trailing by 15 points when it happened and as it turned out – coming up empty there really hurt them.
It should be noted that Dez Bryant recognized that Hyde had jumped it and chased him down. If he doesn’t drag him to the ground, that’s an easy pick-six and would have for all intent-and-purposes, cinched the game for the Packers.
How Does Rodgers Hang On To That Ball?
Jeff Heath had himself a phenomenal game. The interception late in the third quarter will be what people remember as that gave the Cowboys life again. But he wasn’t done. He would have picked off Rodgers a second time had it not been for a pass interference penalty by Anthony Brown (even though they initially called it on Barry Church). The pass looked over Ty Montgomery’s head so if Brown doesn’t intervene, Heath gets the pick. There was still 1:52 left in the game and the Cowboys would have had a chance to march down and kick the game winning field goal.
But even more shocking was when Heath came off the edge on a blitz. He sacked Rodgers for a 10-yard loss pushing Green Bay back to the 32 yard line with 18 seconds left in the game. Heath caught him from the blind side and it was incredible that Rodgers was able to hold on to the ball.
If he fumbles, Orlando Scandrick is right there to pick up the ball at the 30-yard line. Bailey would’ve been looking at a 47-yarder to win the game.
The Goose Is Cooked
After the Heath sack, things were looking great for the Cowboys as the Packers were facing a 3rd and 20 with only 12 seconds left. Many were bracing themselves for the dramatics of overtime. Well, it never got here. Rodgers would find Jared Cook for a 36-yard game that set up the game winning field goal by Mason Crosby. All the Cowboys had to do there is fend off one big pass play, but they couldn’t pull it off.
It was just one last instance where things looked promising for a bit, only to have everything come crashing down.